Joburg seeks cash for energy and to limit power to homes

26 January 2023 - 11:45
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Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse. File photo.
Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse. File photo.
Image: Thulani Mbele

The City of Johannesburg is looking for financiers to help it pay for energy from diversified sources to mitigate rolling blackouts and implement a “ripple relay system”.

Addressing the media on City Power and interventions to manage and mitigate rolling blackouts, executive mayor Mpho Phalatse, with MMC Michael Sun and City Power CEO Tshifularo Mashava, said on Thursday Johannesburg was working towards procuring an additional 500MW of electricity.

The metro last year put out requests for proposals for short-term power-purchase agreements, with a closing date of February 10, for City Power to secure energy from independent power producers (IPPs) for up to 36 months. It is also undergoing an approval process for ministerial determination to procure power on a longer-term basis from IPPs.

“City Power has created a R401m budget for a plan that could, in the short to medium term, avert up to stage 3 load-shedding,” she said. This includes:

  • Recommissioning two existing open-cycle gas-turbine stations at a cost of R20m. The city has 1.2-million litres of diesel for these sites. This would add 74MW to the network when needed.
  • R85m for ripple relay systems. City Power will be able to remotely regulate high-energy use products such as geysers, swimming pool motors and the like. This would save 80MW when needed.
  • With R175m, the city “will procure and distribute smart metres and communication that will enable City Power to limit the amount of power distributed to homes. So instead of turning the power off, it will be able to supply homes with enough energy to power essentials. This will save an additional 322MW when needed.
  • The communication system will require R28m.
  • Phalatse said this plan requires an energy management system upgrade, costing R120m. This will allow City Power to better monitor, control and optimise the performance of its transmission system.

The city was exploring the establishment of an infrastructure fund and will approach development finance institutions, the private sector, as well as provincial and national governments to fund the project.

City Power said if it received the money today, it would take up to six months to action the plan.

Cost of load-shedding in the city

Phalatse said with 205 days of rolling blackouts last year, City Power, despite its best efforts, was fighting a losing battle resulting from losses ranging from sales and revenue, to overtime payments to staff, damage to equipment and infrastructure vandalism.

“Not only does City Power lose revenue when the lights go out, the entity is also forced to spend more money as a result,” she said. “We are also losing customers and revenues due to customers going semi or completely off the grid [with] alternative sources of energy, such as rooftop solar systems.”

Between July 2021 and June 30 last year, City Power experienced losses of 386 GWh, resulting in a net revenue loss of about R284m. At the same time, it incurred costs amounting to R155m on overtime as a result of load-shedding and R35m in insurance. “This translates to a total loss of R474m for the period under review,” said the mayor.

Phalatse appealed to Gauteng police to dedicate resources to combat criminality on the city's power network.

Between July 1 2021 and November 11 2022, City Power experienced 122 days of load-shedding, with 2,175 incidents of theft and vandalism.

“Over the last year it has spent R200m on 390 mini-substations due to theft and vandalism, which generally happens during load-shedding. We are losing, on average, two mini-substations per day. This is not the work of amateur criminals, it is criminality committed by highly armed and resourced syndicates.”


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